Somerset v Lancashire, Taunton, 2nd day September 25, 2008

Somerset struggle to make title claim

Somerset 202 and 66 for 2 lead Lancashire 248 (Loye 61, Sutton 49*, Caddick 4-79) by 20 runs

Steffan Jones celebrates bowling Steven Croft, but it was harder work for the Somerset attack on the second day © Getty Images

The destination of the Championship pennant is still anyone's guess, but Somerset didn't help their own cause at Taunton. Strange captaincy, a flattening surface and some stubborn lower-order contributions from Lancashire all played their part, while events elsewhere remain critically important. Lancashire ground out a lead of 46 before removing Justin Langer and Marcus Trescothick cheaply as the home side closed 20 ahead.

Somerset have been handed a real chance by Nottinghamshire's collapse at Trent Bridge, but couldn't make the most of the opportunity. The tone was set when Langer opted not to open up with his two strike bowlers at the start of play, then he and Trescothick both played poor shots to depart before the deficit was wiped off. Batting conditions were far easier than yesterday, shown by the fact that it took a lot of hard work - and the second new ball - to end Lancashire's innings, the last three wickets adding 107. All the more reason to use your best bowlers first.

Andrew Caddick ended with four wickets, but his second two required much more toil than his opening brace on the first evening. It was a bizarre decision from Langer to hold Caddick and Charl Willoughby back for nearly an hour, with the early-morning cloud cover yet to burn off, instead opening with Alfonso Thomas and Steffan Jones. Langer is a deep thinker about the game; the feeling was this was a case of him thinking a little too much.

Luke Sutton, who began his career at Somerset in 1997, batted more than three-and-a-half hours for his 162-ball 49, taking Lancashire to the brink of a second batting point before he was left stranded, but along with Glen Chapple and Tom Smith produced a lead that appeared unlikely at 141 for 7. While Somerset's focus has been on the title, Lancashire's is very much on survival. They are nearly there - an extra batting point would have helped - although proceedings at Hove will still have a bearing.

If they win here all concerns will be gone, however that will prove hard work on a surface now offering very little. They made a good start when Oliver Newby removed Langer for 6, edging a wild drive to first slip. It completed a strange day for the Somerset captain, who showed his frustration as he went into the dressing room. James Hildreth and Zander de Bruyn carried Somerset ahead, but they will need a substantial lead to bowl at.

In the early absence of Caddick, Mal Loye and nightwatchman Gary Keedy were able to add runs at a comfortable rate, scoring at almost a run-a-minute during the first hour. Loye hasn't been a regular in Lancashire's side this season, relegated to the second XI during his benefit year. However, Faf du Plessis' return to South Africa offered him a chance for this match and he made the most of slightly more favourable batting conditions with his first Championship half-century since June 2007.

Caddick eventually came into the attack after 12 overs, and right on cue removed Keedy in his first over as the he edged low to second slip to end a stand of 69. Langer persisted with Jones and was eventually rewarded when Steven Croft shouldered arms and watched the ball clip his off stump. Caddick could have had his fourth wicket, but Loye's edge to slip on 52 came from a no-ball. It didn't prove too costly as Loye was given lbw off Ian Blackwell shortly after lunch, even though he pushed a long way forward.

Chapple made a useful 36 before Langer atoned for his drop with a good, low catch at first slip an over later, but still Somerset couldn't wrap up the innings. Smith stood tall and played correctly until Caddick finally found his outside edge with the new ball. The lead was small, but could yet be crucial.

Andrew McGlashan is a staff writer at Cricinfo